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Watching a Film a Day in 2024 – Week 2

Entering the thrilling realm of my cinematic challenge in 2024 – Week two has dawned upon me with the fervor of a blockbuster premiere (check out the first week’s escapade here). Wrapping up the inaugural week with an impressive tally of eight films, I find myself comfortably ahead of my self-imposed schedule.

Week two kicked off with the timeless allure of a John Carpenter classic. Witnessing Walter Matthau orchestrating a daring bank heist added a dash of intrigue to the mix, as if I were caught in the midst of a high-stakes thriller. The air resonated with the thunderous roar of a Batmobile, unleashing a banshee’s scream that reverberated through the cinematic landscape.

But that was just the beginning. Week two unfolded like a treasure trove of uncharted films, each promising a journey into unexplored realms of storytelling.

Should you choose to accompany me on this venture, I am writing weekly updates, sharing the films I’ve watched and my thoughts on them. I am based in the UK, so I’ll note if certain films may not be available on streaming platforms in your region. Additionally, I’ll be referencing release dates from

Enough preamble – let’s dive straight into the celluloid adventures that unfolded in the past seven days.

Follow my Film A Day here

8th – 14th January.

Big Trouble in Little China – 1986

  • Director: John Carpenter
  • Writer: Gary Goldman, David Z. Weinstein, W.D. Richter
  • Cast: Kurt Russell, Dennis Dun, Kim Cattrall, James Wong, Victor Wong
  • Watched on Blu-ray

The legendary John Carpenter! What words could truly capture the essence of his cinematic magic? He stands tall among my all-time favorite directors, and the thrill of meeting him at last year’s New York Comic Con still resonates within me – a surreal encounter that feels like a cinematic dream brought to life.

Let’s dive into the timeless allure of “Big Trouble In Little China,” a cinematic gem that feels like a comforting blanket, woven with the threads of old-school Chinese martial arts, mysticism, and Eighties action. Kurt Russell’s portrayal of Jack Burton is a stroke of brilliance – a mix of John Wayne with a touch of foolish charm, creating a character blissfully unaware of his role as the unwitting sidekick in a tale that eludes his understanding.

Russell’s performance, seemingly effortless, adds layers to Burton, making the absurdity of his role oddly endearing. The film dances through a tapestry of great characters, memorable set pieces, and a treasure trove of unforgettable quotes.

“Okay. You people sit tight, hold the fort and keep the home fires burning. And if we’re not back by dawn… call the president.”

It’s a cinematic masterpiece that deserved far more acclaim at the box office. I often find myself yearning for the alternate reality where “Big Trouble In Little China” spawned a series of sequels, allowing us to bask in the continued adventures of Jack Burton. Oh, what a delightful cinematic journey that would have been!

Affliction – 1997

  • Director: Paul Schrader
  • Writer: Russell Banks, Paul Schrader
  • Cast: Nick Nolte, Sissy Spacek, James Coburn, and Willem Dafoe
  • Watched on Prime Video

Embarking on my inaugural viewing of this exceptional yet sombre film left me with a tinge of melancholy, the aftermath of a narrative that unfolded with raw honesty. Despite the emotional weight, the satisfaction lingered, a testament to the impeccable storytelling woven into every frame. The performances were nothing short of stellar, and it came as no surprise that Nolte earned a Best Actor nomination, while Coburn clinched the Best Supporting Actor at the 71st Academy Awards.

Navigating the uncertain terrain of Nolte’s portrayal of Wade Whitehouse, a small-town New Hampshire policeman consumed by obsession and paranoia after a fatal hunting incident, kept me on the edge of my seat. From the outset, Dafoe’s opening monologue forewarned that the journey would not be paved with kindness.

The film traces Wade’s descent into the abyss, haunted by paranoia, the spectre of past trauma inflicted by his father, battles with alcohol, and the relentless grip of depression. It’s a poignant and inevitable unravelling, portrayed with a heart-breaking authenticity that leaves an indelible mark.

Undoubtedly a cinematic gem, but be prepared for a narrative that doesn’t offer solace by its conclusion. This is a journey that resonates long after the credits roll.

Finding Forrester – 2000

  • Director: Gus Van Sant
  • Writer: Mike Rich
  • Cast: Sean Connery, Rob Brown, Anna Paquin, F. Murray Abraham, Michael Pitt, Busta Rhymes, and Charles Bernstein
  • Watched on Prime Video

Jumping into this film we follow the struggles and aspirations of a talented teenager trying to find his groove, all while navigating the sage advice of a reclusive author. The performances across the board were top-notch, and even though we’ve seen these story beats before, this film nailed them with a touch of grace.

Sure, Sean Connery was his usual brilliant self, but let me tell you, Rob Brown’s performance blew me away. Wrap your head around this – it was his first-ever role, landed after auditioning to be an extra. The guy exudes confidence that defies his newbie status. If he hadn’t hit the mark, the whole thing would’ve crumbled.

Now, here’s the kicker. As much as I loved the film, I must say I was a bit disappointed with the ending. They keep talking up how good a writer Brown’s character is, and when we finally get to hear some of his work at the end, they fade it out. All we get is music and people’s faces reacting. I get what they were aiming for, but it felt like a cop-out. The entire ending seemed rushed, leaving me wanting a bit more closure.

Stellar performances all around, but Rob Brown stole the spotlight. The film just wouldn’t have been the same without his debut act, and that’s saying something.

Crazy in Alabama – 1999

  • Director: Antonio Banderas
  • Writer: Mark Childress
  • Cast: Melanie Griffith, David Morse, Lucas Black, Cathy Moriarty, Meat Loaf Aday, Rod Steiger
  • Watched on Prime Video

Antonio Banderas’ venture into directing brings us a peculiar gem of a film. It’s like someone tossed three or four different scripts into a blender, hit the mix button, and voila! While the mishmash doesn’t always hit the mark, there’s an odd charm to the chaos that managed to captivate me.

Now, let’s talk about Lucas Black – always a standout child actor. I vividly recall his stellar performance opposite Gary Cole in the eerie American Gothic TV show. In this film, Black channels a similar vibe, narrating a tapestry of events that delve into racial tension, police brutality, spousal abuse, the rollercoaster of Hollywood highs and lows, and more. Picture this: part screwball comedy, part serious societal drama. It’s precisely the kind of cinematic hodgepodge that keeps you guessing.

Surprisingly, everything weaves together by the end, but it’s all tied up a bit too neatly, leaving me with mixed feelings. This strange concoction of a film feels like it defies its own existence, and yet, there’s an undeniable allure that kept me hooked.

The Opportunists – 1999

  • Director: Myles Connell
  • Writer: Myles Connell
  • Cast: Christopher Walken, Cyndi Lauper, Donal Logue, Peter McDonald and Vera Farmiga
  • Watched on YouTube

A compact yet riveting crime thriller entwined with a character study unfolds, illustrating the harsh reality that a life of crime seldom leads to prosperity; instead, most criminals find themselves entangled in a web of debts to bigger, more ominous forces.

Christopher Walken takes the spotlight, portraying Vic Kelly, an auto mechanic and former safe cracker with a criminal past that haunts him. His performance, as expected, is impeccable – though, for the life of me, I can’t recall if he dances in this one. Regardless, he embodies Kelly, a man in dire straits, desperate to pay rent and fund his elderly aunt’s care home.

The plot takes an intriguing turn with the unexpected arrival of a distant cousin from Ireland, dragging Kelly back into the shadowy realm of his former life. While he may not directly engage in criminal endeavors, Walken’s portrayal brilliantly captures the exhilaration that resurfaces as Kelly dusts off his safe-cracking skills.

Clocking in at just under 90 minutes, this film is a definitely worth checking out. It’s a tight narrative that provides a fascinating glimpse into the struggles of a man torn between the allure of his criminal past and the pressing demands of the present.

Charley Varrick – 1973

  • Director: Don Siegel
  • Writer: John Reese, Howard Rodman, Dean Riesner
  • Cast: Walter Matthau, Andrew Robinson, Joe Don Baker and John Vernon
  • Watched on Blu-ray

Walter Matthau takes a compelling turn in one of his more serious roles as the mastermind behind a bank robbery in this gripping tale. Once the heist is underway, the plot thickens as he discovers he knocked off a mob bank, setting the stage for a high-stakes game of evasion and survival.

Immersing itself in the essence of the Seventies, the film carries the unmistakable vibe of the era, though it doesn’t plunge into the sheer bleakness that characterized many films of that time. It stands out as one of my favorites, offering Matthau the chance to portray what essentially amounts to a bad guy, or perhaps more fittingly, an anti-hero. The departure from his usual roles is refreshing, and he delivers an incredible performance that adds a layer of complexity to the character.

It’s disheartening to learn that Matthau, despite his stellar performance, neither liked the film nor fully grasped its narrative intricacies. His note to director Siegel, expressing his confusion, is a curious footnote to the film’s legacy. Yet, this bit of trivia adds an intriguing layer to the experience, making you ponder the complexities that even the actors themselves may not fully comprehend.

Among the standout characters, Molly, portrayed chillingly by Joe Don Baker as the sadistic mob enforcer, adds another layer of intensity to a film brimming with intriguing supporting roles. The dynamics between the characters create a captivating narrative tapestry that elevates this film into the realm of timeless classics.

The Batman – 2022

  • Director: Matt Reeves
  • Writer: Matt Reeves, Peter Craig, Bob Kane
  • Cast: Robert Pattinson, Zoë Kravitz, Paul Dano, Jeffrey Wright, John Turturro, Peter Sarsgaard, Andy Serkis, and Colin Farrell
  • Watched on Blu-ray

Each time I revisit this film, it seems to grow on me even more. Witnessing Batman in the early stages of his crime-fighting journey, still unaware of the potent tool Bruce Wayne could be in his quest, is a captivating journey. The portrayal of the Dark Knight Detective, my favorite facet of the character, adds an extra layer of enjoyment. His occasional missteps and single-minded focus remind us that beneath the mask, he’s just a man navigating the complexities of justice.

The cinematography, marked by breathtaking lighting, elevates the film to new heights. The grand entrance of the Batmobile, accompanied by a banshee’s scream and an ominous glow, sends shivers down the spine, capturing the fear it instills in all who witness it.

Robert Pattinson’s take on Batman and Bruce Wayne is nothing short of great. His prowess as a versatile actor shines through, bringing depth to both roles. When I first heard he’d be Batman, I was surprised he’d commit to another film series, but I’m genuinely glad he did. Paul Dano’s portrayal of the Riddler adds a chilling realism, mirroring certain sentiments of injustice prevalent in today’s online spaces.

However, the scene in prison where the Riddler interacts with Barry Keoghan’s Joker feels forced and disrupts the film’s flow. It’s just my opinion, but its inclusion seems out of place in an otherwise cohesive narrative.

My anticipation grows for the next installment, and I hope we won’t be kept waiting too long for the next chapter in this captivating Batman saga.

The Taking of Pelham 123 – 2009

  • Director: Tony Scott
  • Writer: Brian Helgeland, John Godey
  • Cast: Denzel Washington, John Travolta, Luis Guzmán, John Turturro, James Gandolfini
  • Watched on Blu-ray

Here we go again, another iteration of the classic tale where a group of men seize control of a New York City subway train, holding the passengers hostage for ransom. I revisited the 1974 version last year and was enthralled by the dynamic between Walter Matthau and Robert Shaw, the central figures that made it a tight thriller, keeping me on the edge of my seat.

Now, this later version, despite the commendable performances from Washington and Travolta, just doesn’t grab me the same way. Travolta’s character lacks the cool, calculated mastermind vibe that Robert Shaw brought to the table. Instead, he seems ready to explode at the slightest provocation, morphing into a more thuggish character that feels out of place. Washington is always solid keeps us engrossed even though he spends much of the film desk-bound.

While the supporting cast delivers commendable performances, the tension regarding the fate of the hostages feels notably absent. It’s like the film is missing the tight grip that made the original a suspenseful ride.

For those of you partaking in a daily film regimen, I encourage you to share your cinematic journey in the comments below. Let us exchange thoughts on the films we’ve watched—our impressions, delights, and perhaps the occasional disappointment.

Total Films Watched this year – 16

Wishing everyone a week filled with cinematic delights and happy viewing!

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